DIYer Displays the Art of Home Theater

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Rob Sprance said he could have put the theater in the basement, but it has steel poles and a ceiling height of only 6 feet.

Rob Sprance isn't a film snob. This indie film fan is just a do-it-yourselfer with a small theater in his spare bedroom.


Dec. 23, 2009 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Rob Sprance cherishes the indie vibe, but he also isn’t afraid to blast a little Bourne in his bedroom theater. That’s right; his “Arthouse” home theater is located in a spare bedroom on the second floor.

“The only other option was my basement, which has a ceiling height of only 6 feet and these big steel poles to support the house,” says Rob of his choice of location. “It’s great if I wanted to build a torture chamber, but for a theater ... not so much.”

So Rob put the theater in that spare room, which is located at the very last door in the upstairs hallway. Although he has sound isolation measures in place, he does admit that sleeping in the next room could be a problem. However, he and wife Maria usually share the theater experience together. “You’d have to ask the cats,” he quips.

Choosing the room was a no-brainer. The demolition process was a whole other story. To get the effect that he wanted, Rob wanted to start from scratch. That meant ripping out the walls all the way down to the studs. The closet was also removed, which added another three feet to the room. He could have spent $400 on a Dumpster. However, he decided to call in a pro, after they made an offer he couldn’t refuse: $800 to do the whole deed, including carting off the excess. For the rest of the project, he was on his own.

With the demo out of the way and a blank canvas to work with, Rob had a lot of planning to do. Figuring out the viewing angles, screen height, second row height and other such details proved to be the most challenging piece of his project. However, creating the perimeter soffit was no picnic, either. “Making the perimeter soffit come out even in spite of the crooked walls of the house certainly had me coming up with some new, creative words,” Rob says.

Equipment was also an issue, so he spent a lot of time running his selections by the members of the AVS Forum. “Some of the suggestions on AVS saved the day for me,” he says. “They are not afraid to tell you when you are about to do something stupid, which happens to be pretty often in my case.”

When it came to the look of the room, Rob turned to someone a bit less harsh—his father Robert. An architect, Robert came up with the idea to alternate the wood and acoustical panels. “I loved it the second he showed it to me,” he says. The color of the wood, however, wasn’t so scientific. Rob had originally planned a cherry wood stain. When he hung the panels to make sure he cut them correctly, he says he had an a-ha! moment—and decided the leave the wood in its natural state.

In addition to the panels, carpet was added to the existing wood floor, which could have been an acoustical nightmare. Aside from the sound qualities, Rob says he loves how the black carpet plays against the wood panels and the light-colored suede seats. He wanted the look of the room to be able to stand on its own. Mission accomplished, we’d say.

At 15.75 by 11 by 8 feet, the room is fairly small, which could give a little boost to Rob’s indie cred. However, with something like high-action sports, the front can get frightening at times. “I tried watching a Rangers game from the front row,” he says. “I thought my brain was going to implode.” Rob says that the games (including video games) play best from the back. “The front row is the way to go for movies, as you truly get enveloped in the experience and you get that big screen theater feel.”

The big screen (Rob’s is 108 inches) is what it’s all about—which is probably why Rob kicked off the room with a showing of The Bourne Ultimatum, instead of an IFC classic. “It was time to get my explosions on.” Explosions are good—sometimes too good. “I do need to watch that movie again, as all I really did was sit in awe of the picture and sound,” says Rob. “I don’t think I could even tell you anything that happened except for the fact that Matt Damon kicks some [butt].”

Even the Arthouse enjoys a good butt-kicking. He named the theater for his love of the Angelika Film Center in Manhattan. “The days of the multiplex have made small art houses a thing of the past, unfortunately,” he says. Well, maybe not. Rooms like Rob’s may not recreate the exact experience, but the heart is all there. “This was my first real construction project,” he says. “After the dust cleared (and a bit of random cursing), I am very proud of the result.”

Click here for more photos of Rob Sprance’s bedroom theater.

Quick Hits
Location: Long Island, NY
Year Completed: 2009
Room Size: 15.75 x 11 x 8 feet
Length of Project: 7 months
Total Cost: $18,000


Equipment List
AV123 Xsub Subwoofer
Axiom Audio M 22 Speakers (2)
Axiom Audio QS4 Surround Speakers (4)
Axiom Audio VP150 Center Channel Speaker
Belkin Pure AV PF31 Power Console
Berkline 088 Home Theater Seats (7)
Carada 108-inch Brilliant White Precision Screen
DirecTV HR20 HD DVR
DViCO Tvix Media Player 4100SH (2.5TB)
Microsoft Xbox 360 w/ HD-DVD Player
Oppo Digital 980H DVD Player
Panasonic AE2000u 1080p Projector
Pioneer Elite VSX-92TXH Receiver
Sony PlayStation 3
VUDU VBX1000 Movie Player



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